dancing into the light

One of the unexpected joys of blogging is the friendships I’ve cultivated with other bloggers. Since Sam first introduced herself to me, back in July, I have had a huge amount of respect for her. I knew her as a Morris Dancer, determined to get herself “fit enough to dance in a mask”.
I didn’t know her back story until mid-November, when she published a series of six Haiku poems that shed light on the woman behind the mask. She took my breath away with the beauty and heartbreak of her words. Since then we have become friends and supporters of one another in the pursuit of our 365-days-of-exercise goals.
Sam’s story deserves to be heard by many. Please read, comment on and share this post. If one was ever deserving, it is this one. xoxo nancy


When Nancy first asked me to tell my story as a guest post on her blog, I was honoured and excited, and jumped up and down in my kitchen a little bit.

My second reaction was, what the hell is my story? What am I going to write and where do I start this?

Should I start when my “food issues” began, in my senior years of high school, when I ate almost nothing and was turned down for my dream career because I was underweight?

Or should I start when I put on weight, then lost 70 lbs, only to put it all back on again?

I should probably start by telling you all what I am doing at the moment, and then tackle the saga of craziness that made me start it!

Last year, at midsummer, I decided to jump feet first into a project designed to change my life and transform me into a healthier, more energetic and fitter person! Inspired by a post I read on The Jackie Blog, I decided to embark on a journey to exercise 365 days – in a row – all together!

I set my rules:

  • I will do some exercise /activity every day for at least 30 minutes; and
  • It will be deliberate; and
  • I will write about it in a blog so I don’t wuss out!

I put no more thought into it than that. How hard could it be, I thought, 30 minutes of exercise every day for the next year, and by magic I will be super fit and awesome! I will be healthy and thinner and fitter and able to dance all day, no problem!

I was hoping it would change my lifestyle, but also quite hoping it would happen with no real effort on my part…

That lasted for two weeks… The attitude, I mean. The project is still going strong!

After two weeks, I realized that this wasn’t going to happen by magic… I could get fitter by doing a bit of exercise every day, but if I kept down the path of self-sabotage by means of giant bags of sweets and chocolate, I was really going to waste an opportunity.

I resolved then to change my lifestyle completely: exercise, diet, attitude, the lot!

By diet, I mean the things I ate on a regular basis. I did not start a “diet plan”. The changes had to be sustainable and realistic.

I read the Internet. Yes, all of it, the whole thing. Well, not the porn. And not all the cat pictures.

So probably about 1/4 of it… 🙂

Okay, I read some of the Internet!

I read about Low GI, Paleo, Clean Eating, Intermittent Fasting, LFHC, Weight Watchers, multi-million dollar diet industry propaganda. You name it, if it was health and fitness related, I read it.

And then promptly ignored it.

And made up my own plan, one where I count my calories (vaguely), eat non-processed food (mostly) and cut out (about 90%) of the sugar I was eating.

I decided that I wanted to exercise more than just a small amount every day. I wanted to exercise as much as I possibly could all the time (work/life time constraints allowing), and for this I needed the right fuel.

So I changed my life in one giant hit of changes…

You know the thing you are told not to do…

The complete opposite of the small steps “they” recommend!

And it has been an awesome journey so far, and taken me down some paths I was not expecting, and changed me for the better in ways that I didn’t think were necessary when I started this.

To understand the position I was in at the beginning of the project, I looked back at some things I wrote before all this started. Here is what I found:


Nothing drowns it out

Noise of people and their lives

Make them go away


I hate most people

Probably says more about

me than them. Who cares?


Empty spaces left

I’m paralysed by sadness

How do I get through


Taken too early

Unfairness leaves me angry

Nothing makes much sense


I was very sad and I was very angry, with the world and everything that had happened!

What had happened was this:

mumOn 8th March 2010 my Mum died aged 62 from a Brain tumour.

They called it an Anaplastic Astrocytoma it was 6cm in diameter and could have been there as long as 30 years! They operated and attacked it with radio therapy, and all the while we planned exciting stuff that was going to happen after this all got better…

But it didn’t and I lost my Mum

My Mum who was loved by everyone, who was my friend as well as my mum, who was the person I talked to about many things and the person who made me believe I could do anything! And the person who was 62, which is still young!

But I got through it, angry and sad but through it and functioning and getting back on with life, although at this point the eating had started, I just hadn’t noticed!

In August 2011 my very good friend Dez died age 37 for no reason at all. dez

He went to bed one night and never woke up, to be discovered by a mutual friend a few days later. They say it was Sudden Adult Death Syndrome,

Which is code for no one knows.

And I lost a very good friend who was loved by so many of us in my group,. He was the guy who would giggle like a little girl and accidentally drank the bubble bath instead of his water bottle when he didn’t have his glasses on. He was the guy who went with me to musicals and was always up for a good dinner and was genuinely scared of fruit!

These events gave me a brand new outlook on life, they encouraged me even more to live life to the fullest possible. I vowed after this never to miss out on an adventure, never to take my hat off because I get odd looks and never to put things off just in case!


These events also made me eat everything! I must make it clear at this point that I do not blame these events for my eating and weight gain…this was my responsibility alone! I chose to eat and I knew it was bad for me. But I did it anyway!

Comfort eating is what I was doing and it was not working. I wrote these:


Eating doesn’t help

Stuffing your face like a pig

Doesn’t fill the hole


Emptiness inside

Torn open by the losses

Can’t be filled by food


I was engaging in an elaborate cycle of eating and attempted desperate crash dieting, gym resolutions and more eating!

I have suffered from depression and self harm before in my life and I believe now that this was another version of the self harm model.

I was eating everything…it must have added up to thousands of calories a day!


Misery descends

Pretending to be cheerful

One face for the world


The world ripped open

Blackness pulls me back inside

Closing overhead


It was this mindset that my current project and my new found love of morris dancing has forced me to overcome! I was forced to face the fact that the eating was stopping me doing the things I wanted to do, stopping me dancing, stopping me being active, and stopping me living the way I wanted to!

I discovered that dancing and exercising and finding positive things to write in a blog every day was a amazing way alter my outlook.


World filled with dancing

Life changing realisation

I have to repair


I realised that there was no quick fix, no magic pill or potion, I had put myself in this position and I could get myself out of it. For me the best way to do this was publicly an in a big way, if I backed out I would have to admit it to the world.

Or at least to myself…

I can genuinely say for the first time in recent years, I am not angry with myself for repeated self-sabotage!

I am not trying and failing to be thin.

I am trying and succeeding to be healthy, and fit!

There is weight loss…but it is a side effect…a welcome one, I am not going to lie, but no longer my primary focus!

I decided during this journey that I want to make health and fitness part of my life. I want to be able to help others realise the same things I have realised and to embrace an active lifestyle! I am now currently studying to become a personal trainer.

It is terrifying!

I have still so many demons to overcome so much to prove to myself that I can do this. I have to make myself believe that people will take me seriously as a trainer!

A big part of my head still thinks of me as the person who couldn’t run for more than a minute at a time, who was eating herself into a hole so deep that it took an enormous effort to get out of it!

samI have to remember that I can now run 5k with minimal walking. 

I can now deadlift 50kg,

I can dance for a whole evening without wanting to stop…ever!

I can (sometimes) get up at 6am and do the craziest personal training sessions in the history of the world!

I can even do cartwheels. And climb up a rock face. Of course, not at the same time…no one can do cartwheels on a rock face!

I have done yoga in my pyjamas when I was too sick to do anything else. 

I have woken up in strange places, at 6am, to squeeze in a run because there was no other time to exercise in the day. 

I have even gone running on my lunch-break, on a Friday, when the rest of the office is heading down to the pub!

And to think when I started this project I thought it was going to be 30 mins of easy exercise a day and the rest would happen by magic!


Happy memories

Start to replace emptiness

Returning to life


 Building a new me

Growing stronger every day

Memories honoured


Thank you so much, Sam, for sharing your raw and beautiful story with us. You are a true inspiration.

Keep moving,

xoxo nancy


141 thoughts on “dancing into the light

  1. Sam, truly I am so lucky to have read this, By looking in you found the answers you needed. Good luck for the future!

    Nancy, you are a treasure for asking Sam to share her story… Take care, Baz 🙂

  2. Pingback: Extra: I am a guest blogger!! | Midsummer 365 Project

  3. This is such an inspiring story Sam! I am somewhat new to your blog and enjoy learning more of your story. Written through haikus, it is very moving too. You will definitely be taken seriously as a personal trainer, seems as if you have so much to teach and give. I looked up Morris Dancing on youtube, it looks so fun!

    • Thank you so much 😀
      I am slightly overwhelmed that people find me inspiring! (I am trying to read the story as if someone else wrote it but it is hard to be objective)
      I am glad you like the morris dancing, it is lots of fun, I am hoping to post more videos with me in from this dancing season (not that you will recognise me behind the mask!)
      😀 thanks again!

  4. Great story, Sam! Love that you went from exercising just to drop some weight, to doing it because it will let you do everything you want to.

    thanks for introducing us, Nancy!

  5. Such an inspiring post Sam…of real life such as it happened and how you challenged the existing circumstances. Thanks Nancy for bringing us Sam’s story!

  6. This is the first time that in a response I feel the word “profound” come to my mind. I am so glad to have read Sam’s story, or at least the part that she has shared here. I have an idea there is a whole lot more I’d like to know of this sensitive and determined woman! Thanks for the introduction, Nancy. I’ll make my way over to her blog now and see if I can get caught up! 🙂

  7. Inspiring story– it’s amazing to look back at things we have written in the past and see just how dark or desperate our world was at the time. Oh gosh Nancy, now there are TWO of you motivating me to get off my arse in some sort of consistent way???

    • 😀 thank you so much!
      Considering some of the things you have written about I am honoured that you like my story!
      You are right, looking back is am amazing thing…at the time even when I wrote those Haiku I wasn’t really aware I was so sad and angry!

    • Aussa, she has definitely kept me motivated after my 365 challenge ended in Dec. I feel a sense of responsibility (and competitiveness) to keep going, knowing she’s still working her challenge.

      • Hehehe I love that 🙂 knowing you have made it a lifestyle inspires me too 🙂
        I am going to have to think of something for the next year soon!

  8. Wow Sam. Very moving story. I’m enamored with the way your haikus are both simple and profound. Your resolve is admirable and inspiring! My biggest challenge is also remembering I’m exercising/eating right to be fit, NOT to be “thin” (or have the unattainable body of Jen Anniston haha!) If I find I’m starting self-shame, I have to walk away and just keep reminding myself that I exercise because it makes me feel good. Period.

    Truthfully, what helped me most was to decide to love myself curvy before I could love myself any other way. That made the exercise feel like a reward rather than a punishment. Does that make any sense? It’s hard to articulate, but hopefully it comes across right.

    great guest poster to have here, nancy!

    • I I could have sworn I replied to this…
      I am so glad you liked my story and the haikus, as I said in another comment, I didn’t really know until I looked back how much I put into them!

      The switch from exercise = thin to exercise = healthy and fit is a really important one! I decided I would believe that and when I started I wasn’t even sure I could keep believing it, but 8 or so months in, I truly do believe it 🙂

      You are right too about liking yourself, if you don’t you won’t be happy no matter what you do exercise of eat bucket loads of chocolate (as I discovered) the treatment of exercise as a punishment is definitely a common view but not a healthy one, I am so glad you managed to think of it as fun because I find it so much fun and I would love to be able to make other feel that too!
      Thank you for your lovely comment 🙂

      • WordPress is amazing. I’ve only been here since mid September but there are a few special folk that I feel like I’ve known a lifetime.

      • I’m very excited as a friend, Peter, who I’ve grown very close to is visiting London (from Aus) in a couple of weeks and we hope to meet for coffee. It’s odd because the distance and anonymity has enabled us to be very honest and open with each other so I’m intrigued how that will play out face to face! x

      • I haven’t yet met another blogger in person (come close a couple times), but I can tell you that others I know who have all experienced nothing but goodness. So refreshing! Enjoy your visit with Peter!

      • Thank you! I’ve met lots of Twitter friends face to face once i felt I already knew them and the weird thing about it usually is how un-weird it is! x

    • Thank you so much for you comment and wishes! 🙂
      I am really pleased (and still amazed) that you found my story inspiring!
      You are so right about wordpress too, I have met people here who are true friends despite living hundreds (and thousands) of miles away 😀

      • Thank you! And good luck with your fitness quest. I just ran (“ran”) the London Marathon a couple of weeks ago and figure that’s me done for good. (I’m still hobbling about on crutches!) I did raise £3,000 for Beat though – you might know of them, an eating disorders charity, I’m a trustee. No more running for me though 🙂

      • Good luck with your 10k 🙂 You cant be tempted by a marathon then. SPOILER ALERT – it’s really far! (honestly, I was surprised but quite how far).

      • You couldn’t even talk me into a half marathon by telling me that Christian Louboutin was giving away free shoes at the finish line.

        Well, okay, maybe THAT would entice me to do it.

      • ha ha! I thought a half marathon seemed like quite a nice distance as I passed the 13 mile mark in London and realised I had to do it all over again! Maybe 10k is a better idea 🙂

      • My goodness! That is amazing! And for such a good cause!!
        I have never been officially diagnosed with an eating disorder but as a teenager I developed very disordered eating, I know that now! And it is literally 20 years later that I am realising that I am only now sorting out my attitude to food!
        I haven’t heard if Beat, but I wish I had! It is a cause close to my heart! I am going to look it up now!
        And I have been reading your poems, I am even more humbled that you like my story!

      • Here you go: http://www.b-eat.co.uk/

        There’s lots of great info.

        I do a lot of work with schools re eating disorders and spend a lot of time trying to explain that diagnoses can be quite irrelevant. Someone who is undiagnosed or sub-threshold may be going through every bit as much psychological (and physical) agony as someone receiving treatment – in fact perhaps more so because they are not receiving the support they need.

      • Thank you 🙂
        I have just been reading about binge eating disorder. It sounds scarily like what I was doing!
        And as a teenager I had most if the symptoms if anorexia, extremely enough for my friends to tell my parents thy were worried, but not extreme neigh for people to really believe it (including me)
        I have such a distorted body image that I literally have no idea what I look like!
        But…i am working through it now and have finally developed a healthy attitude!

      • There are so many people who go undiagnosed… you’d be more likely to be picked up these days (largely because I spend so long banging the drumb and educating teachers so they’re a bit more clued up now) but binge eating disorder is a very recent diagnosis. It’s only become a formal diagnosis in its own right in the last year – but that is fabulous news, it’s being taken more seriously now with more research and more funding and hopefully, in time, less stigma…

        I’m glad to hear you have a healthier attitude now. Me too, though for me it’s a lifelong battle. But it’s far easier to make good choices these days.

      • It is so good that these things are taken seriously now! Looking back over the years of disordered eating and the crazy attitude I had to food, I really hope I can keep my new attitude up!
        I am so pleased that good choices are coming easier to you too! It is odd how the bad choices seem so much easier… X

      • OH and thank you. I’m really enjoying writing poems, I started in September as a daily challenge (like you and your exercise I guess) and now it’s such a part of my routine it feels wrong if I don’t do it. I don’t have any delusions of grandeur though and am continually surprised that people read them to be honest!

      • I know how that feels! I can’t believe people find my little exercise blog interesting let alone inspiring!
        Your poems are really good 🙂
        I can only do haiku

      • I haven’t tried Haiku, I’m too scared, they look hard! I wrote a lune for a challenge a while back but that is a more forgiving form.

        I think it’s great that folk are inspired by your exercise blog, must encourage you to keep up the good work too?

      • Knowing people read it and are inspired really does help! Sometimes when I am running (which I find so hard) I think, “just think how great it will be to write about how well this went!” It keeps me from stopping!

      • that’s brilliant! I had a few folk sponsoring me per live tweet during the marathon so I live tweeted the whole thing, I was so grateful of the support I received when I was finding it tough.

      • Well I kind of thought the same would be true for me (though today, two weeks on, is my first day free of crutches so the jury’s out as to whether it was a good idea 😉

      • Haiku are easy
        They needn’t be too profound

        (Although technically if it doesn’t have a seasonal reference it is a senku (?) I think…and hippopotamus is a useful 5 sound word if you are stuck!)

      • Yes they really are! Which is why none if the ones I write are really haiku! The odd one is but senku (?) are similarly patterned but not as strict and can be more satirical.
        I will investigate the Lune

  9. Thank you both so much for sharing this. I see a lot of myself and my own attitudes in your past, things that I’m really trying to work on. Sam and Nancy, you both inspire me so much, I only hope that I can make my story turn out as well as both of yours xx

  10. Pingback: Reflections… | my year[s] of sweat!

  11. Pingback: Body Positivity | my year of sweat

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